January 29, 1985 -
by Bill Fultz
Last year we did several features on arch enthusiasts who paved the way for today’s arch hunters. This year we would like to feature current arch hunters who are out there right now or were recently out there documenting those long forgotten or lost arches.
Over the past seven years Dustin Robinson has quietly become one of Kentucky’s most respected and knowledgeable hikers in the state. Almost daily he can be found somewhere in the Commonwealth revisiting places he loves or exploring off trail looking for new discoveries. In 2022 Dustin was out hiking on 201 days of the year. Why was he out so much? As he says, he “hates being indoors.” Dustin’s contributions to the hiking community and the KY Landforms Database, though seemingly subtle, are far reaching.
When asked how many arches he’s been to Dustin’s response is, he doesn’t really know. Nor does he know how many he’s documented. He just gets enjoyment out of exploring and photographing them. He guesses he has visited around 200 arches, which is a fairly conservative estimate since he has added 101 documentations to the arch database and has submitted several to Bill Patrick as well. His most recent find is his favorite, Pinch’em Tight Arch and Pinch’em Tight Double Arch, a multi opening feature in the Red River Gorge that was discovered years ago and was then lost to time. When it comes to off trail exploring for arches he prefers the Red River Gorge where you’ll also find his most visited arches, Grays and Star Gap. Besides his documentation contributions, he has supplied endless photos to the arch database, so you can get a sneak peak at what the arches look like.
When he’s not spending time out visiting and hunting arches Dustin also enjoys visiting, hunting and photographing waterfalls and overlooks, creating hiking videos of his adventures for his Youtube Channel, and assisting in moderating the Kentucky Waterfalls, Arches and Landscapes (KWAL) Group. An accomplished photographer, he began taking photography more seriously back in 2019 with an entry DSLR but now uses a Full Frame mirrorless to capture his adventures. Though he enjoys photographing arches he loves to shoot waterfalls as they are an easier subject to capture. At the suggestion of several folks, Dustin also began a Youtube channel titling it, Exploring With D_Rob, where he details his hikes while pointing out cool natural features, trail intersections, flora and fauna, and anything else helpful for the viewer. As a moderator for the KWAL group he reveals over and over again that he is a group expert, often knowing the answers to questions or correcting wrong answers. Anyone who knows Dustin knows that he’s the Eastern Spotted Newt whisperer. It is almost guaranteed that if he's out on the trail, and it’s warm enough, you’ll see some of his little orange friends in his post that day. Though the jury is still out if he carries them in his pockets and sprinkles them in the forest during his hike.
We hope you enjoyed our feature on arch, waterfall and Eastern Spotted Newt enthusiast, Dustin Robinson. We could have said more, but we didn’t want to make this a book.
How long have you been hiking and off trail exploring?
Started hiking in spring of 2016. Don’t think it was til the later part of 2017 before I got into off trailing.
What inspired you to begin hiking and exploring?
I’ve always been an outside person, I hate being indoors. And over the years I’ve fished a lot and hunted a lot so I’ve never really been a stranger to being around the water/woods. I don’t really remember what sparked my interest in hiking but after my first couple hikes I kept learning of more and more places I wanted to go and it just went from there.
Do you have a favorite area you like exploring? If so, why?
Daniel Boone National Forest, London District for Waterfalls and the Red River Gorge area for arches. London district for waterfalls because Laurel County alone has close to 200 documented waterfalls and RRG for arches because there’s 1000+ documented arches and still more being found.
What is your favorite arch?
This is a tough one. But based on most visits, it would have to be Grays Arch or Star Gap Arch.
Dustin Robinson at Grays Arch
© Dustin Robinson
What is your favorite arch you have documented?
Probably my most recent finds in RRG, Pinch’em Tight Arch and Pinch’em Tight Double Arch.
Pinch’em Tight Double Arch
© Dustin Robinson
What is the motivation to take a day and hunt for some arches?
It’s hard to get motivated sometimes because all of the undocumented stuff is almost always not easy access because all of the easy to get to stuff has already been found/documented. But, the thrill of finding something new that’s never been seen/documented or hasn’t been seen by anyone in many years is the motivation to go head first into the rhodo thickets.
It’s pretty clear you’ve visited a lot of arches, if you were to guess, how many do you think you have visited?
I honestly have no clue how many arches I’ve visited or documented. I’d say I’ve probably seen at least 200 tho just guessing. Unlike others we know, I don’t explore and base things off numbers to brag, I’m out in the woods ‘cause I enjoy being out there seeing things and photographing them.
Though you enjoy visiting and documenting arches, you also enjoy waterfalls and overlooks. Does any one type of landform stand out as a favorite to visit or do you like all of them the same?
For photography, it’s waterfalls hands down. But like this winter, we’ve not had much rain so haven’t got to do much of that. Arches are loyal to us tho, they’re always there rain or shine!
In 2022 you surpassed 200 days hiking. What is it about the outdoors you love so much?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m an outdoorsy person, I just love being outside. There’s always something to see and getting out in nature is just relaxing and gets you away from the craziness in this world we live in.'
Do you think you’ll try to surpass the 202 hikes of 2022 in 2023?
Well in 2021, seems like when I came in around 176 hikes, I think it might’ve been Chris said that I should go for 200 next year (2022). So last year I set the goal to reach 200 hikes by years end and did achieve by hiking 201 days. This year, I’ve not set a goal like that so I’m not sure if I’ll beat that number or not. As we know I don’t like the hot months so I lose a lot of days in July/August especially lol.
What inspired you to begin your Exploring With DRob Youtube Series?
Exploring With D.Rob came about after numerous people suggested I start a YouTube channel. I was finally like, I’m already out here doing this stuff and people wanna see things that some of them can’t so why not.
Have you created an episode featuring only arches? If so, do you plan to?
Exploring With DRob is gaining in popularity and there’s a lot of positive feedback in the hiking community. What do you contribute its growing success to?
I think it’s probably just going to places that people wanna see and in some cases places people didn’t even know existed. I’ve also had several people mention that they like how I will point things out in my videos like Chimney Top Overlook, for example, when I point out all of the areas/items of interest you can see from there.
Besides Youtubing you also enjoy photography. What inspired you to put down the phone camera, jump though some entry level cameras to eventually using a higher end dslr?
I purchased my first camera in 2018 after numerous people said I should get a camera to photograph all the places I was going. So, I did, a Canon T6. But it wasn’t til up into 2019 before I ever really took the time to learn how to use it and had hiked with a few friends who are photographers as well. In early 2020 I upgraded cameras to a little better camera, the Canon M50. Over the course of 2020 I took more time to learn more about photography and practiced more and more. I was happy enough with my progress that in 2021 I stepped my game up and bought the full frame Canon EOS R, which I currently still shoot with.
Like most landscape/nature photographers you photograph anything cool you find whether it's a waterfall or some cool critter on the ground, do you have a favorite subject to photograph when out in the field?
Waterfalls are definitely my favorite things to photograph. If I was more into post processing I might like arch photography more but they’re often hard to capture with a single exposure.
Speaking of cool critters, you’ve probably photographed more juvenile Eastern Red Spotted Newts than anyone in the US. If you are not carrying a supply of these in a bag and scattering them in the forest, what do you contribute to your high success rate in spotting these elusive creatures?
They are like me and enjoy a nice wet area. They’re out best on overcast days just after rain. Unlike most similar critters, I usually don’t see them on bright sunny days or out in the summer heat. I have seen them out in temps as low as 40 degrees tho which really shocked me.
Do you have a favorite waterfall?
Pine Island Double Falls
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Bill Fultz needs more trail time in 2023!